Climax – Rhetorical stylistic device

What is a climax?

Image result for climax in literatureThe Climax (from ancient Greek “klimax” = ladder) is a rhetorical stylistic device of enhancement .

In several (usually three) stages Klimax puts together words, phrases or phrases, moving from a weak expression to a stronger one to the strongest. The last term of the sequence thus represents its climax.


“I begged, begged, begged on my knees.”

The increase may refer to different qualities. Thus the concepts can move from the smallest to the largest, from the most insignificant to the most important, from the most inaccurate to the most precise or from the lowest to the highest.

“The news spread in every village, every city, every country.”

“Everyone was full of joy that day, beggar, peasant or nobleman.”

»I read what I like: penny books, entertainment novels, works of world literature.«

Effect of climax

The slow approach to the subject, the gradual, gradual movement towards the goal statement, increases the tension and excites the listener or reader. One of the most famous examples of this is Julius Caesar’s saying:

“Veni, vidi, vici.”
(“I came, I saw, I conquered.”)

Linguist and rhetoric expert Anita Hermann-Ruess says about this process: “When we boost, it’s like turning the main switch that controls the intensity of the emotions.” [1]

The climax in the literature

Related imageThe Klimax is also used in literature as a rhetorical device to put the reader in an expectation and to raise his attention. Using the Klimax makes a text lively, emotional and expressive:

“I declared war on the kingship, I struck it, I killed it and threw a king’s head as a gauntlet for the kings.”
Georg Büchner, Danton’s death

“You understood? You forgave? You forgot? What a misunderstanding, you just stopped loving. ”
Arthur Schnitzler, aphorisms and reflections

Climax and anti-climax

The rhetorical process underlying the climax is called Amplificatio (lat. = Extension). Such an extension can be an increase as just described. But it can also appear as a reduction and weakening. In this opposite case one speaks of the Antiklimax.


“She’s just jealous: my house, my kitchen, even my coffee machine.”

“Roland loved all nature, trees, shrubs, and blades of grass.”

Important: The effect is the amplification and increase of the statement just as with the Klimax. This effect is produced only by a reverse process. As the examples show, the anti-climax is in some cases more effective than the climax: how great must be the envy of a woman who begrudges her neighbor even the coffee machine. And how strong must Roland’s love of nature be if he loves the blades of grass himself!

The Klimax in sales pitch and advertising

In sales psychology , the climax is known as a means to reinforce a statement and make it more memorable. Sales arguments are not simply strung together, but placed in a logical context: From the weakest argument, the seller proceeds step by step to more convincing arguments to finally reach the pinnacle of the conversation with the strongest selling point.

So could a bookseller z. For example, recommend a book on memory training in the following words:

»The title is on the Spiegel bestseller list. Most have already read it. He is so exciting that you will not let him out of his hand anymore. But best of all, you can boost your memory with the included exercises! «

Further examples:

»The drink has hardly any calories, tastes delicious and improves the appearance of the skin in a few days.«

»This wall paint is inexpensive and at the same time ecologically harmless. With her dreamlike natural tones she transforms your living space into a private paradise. «

In advertising slogans are numerous examples of the use of Klimax and Antiklimax. Often called the last link in the chain of increase instead of the superlative brand name. This procedure requires a basic understanding of the forms of customer enhancement.

“Well. Better. Paulaner. “

“Bigger. Better. Burger King. “

“Clear. Bubbly. Sprite. “

“Square. Practically. Well.”